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Budget starves community services

Christian social service agencies have welcomed the social spending in this week's 2018 Budget, but will take another hit as no new funding comes to help them lift struggling families out of poverty.

Taonga News/NZCCSS  |  19 May 2018

The New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS) has welcomed the Government’s social funding in the 2018 budget, but questions its choice to keep starving core community social services of essential funds.

“This Budget has not recognised the dire situation that community social services are experiencing”, says Trevor McGlinchey, New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services Executive Officer.

Community operated social services organisations are best placed to support families and whanau to make the most of the Government’s social spend in other fields, says NZCCSS, but the church and community social services sector continues to be left out of new resource allocations.  

“Like the primary health system, community social services provide support and treatment for families before their issues spiral out of control. But to do this they need to offer expensive higher-level services.” said McGlinchey today.

NZCCSS has joined social services organisations to alert Government ministers to the impact of sustained lack of funding in the core community-based social services sector. The sector has received no increases in funding for 10 years – not even a cost of living increase, which is in effect a reduction in funding.   

Yet despite this the community social service sector, which includes the Anglican City Missions, The Salvation Army and Presbyterian Support Family Works, has continued to provide essential services for hundreds of thousands of New Zealand’s most vulnerable citizens.  

“Community social services are struggling to survive, and now we are likely to see further reductions and rationing of essential community services as organisations try to remain sustainable”, said McGlinchey.

NZCCSS recognises that the 2018 Budget responds to signals from communities about pressures caused by lack of housing, inability to meet health needs, underfunded schools, insufficient teachers and low funding for Early Childhood education and special education. Each of these areas received a welcome boost in yesterday’s budget.

NZCCSS hopes Government increases in income and accommodation support delivered through the Families Package will see improvements in wellbeing for some living in poverty, and welcome the much-needed additional funding for community-based Family Violence services.

Extra funds for transitional housing and Housing First initiatives are also good news says NZCCSS, as they will move some homeless Kiwis toward long-term housing.

Community social services agencies also hope a portion of funds released by reducing prison populations will be channelled to community organisations that help reintegrate ex-prisoners into society on their release.

The Christian social services organisations hope that the significant funding boost to the Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children ($269.9 million over 4 years) to “expand its services” will help shift children out of poverty.

But they are disappointed that continued underfunding of community social services will undermine the work of NZCCSS members to make many of these changes real in their clients’ lives.